Dale (Mansfield) Ltd

"WATCHING AN APPRENTICE LEARN FROM THE BOTTOM-UP ENSURES THEY LEARN THE HEART OF THE BUSINESS, AND WE’RE ALWAYS KEEN TO ENCOURAGE THEIR DEVELOPMENT"

Tim Novell, general manager of New Houghton-based engineering firm Dale (Mansfield) Ltd, insists that apprentices have brought them a wealth of home-grown talent for more than 20 years.

Established in 1971, the company originally specialised mainly in supplying equipment for the mining and engineering sectors. With the decline of the mining industry it diversified its product lines to making hydraulic cylinders, military handling equipment and machines for off-shore oil and construction industries.

One of the firm’s biggest projects has been making and maintaining ventilation systems for the Eurotunnel.

Tim said: “As we began to supply for alternative industries and other countries, the need to employ apprentices made sense. We had an average age of 60 amongst workers on the production floor and knew we needed to fill the widening age-gap.

“We’ve worked very productively with the college – more recently through Vision Apprentices – and have two new apprentices join us each year. Lots of our staff now are those original apprentices who have progressed.”

And it’s not just engineering apprentices who are thriving. Administrator and accounts assistant Heather Neale, 18, arrived in 2014 as a clerk – studying on the Business Administration Level 3 Diploma.

Heather said: “I first came here for my school work experience and back then I knew I’d really like to work for the company. I thought ‘I’ve got to work there!’ I left school on the Friday and joined Dale on the Monday and began my apprenticeship.”

Heather’s role includes answering telephones, putting invoices through the system, general administration and helping with queries, obtaining management signatures, producing sales orders and invoices, and on top of this she runs the payroll system for the company’s 55 employees.

She also takes the opportunity to routinely visit workshop areas, ensuring she knows the business from top to bottom, which helps her to understand the products on order. This is a quality which Tim admires in Heather, who is due to study the AAT accounting certificate at West Notts College.

Tim said: “For me, the benefits I’ve seen with working with apprentices are that they will be the ones to ask the strange questions – those you wouldn’t ask yourself. It’s easy when you know the business, but for an apprentice joining the company for the first time they will ask you ‘Why do we do that?’ Those questions are good to hear because it gets us thinking differently.

“Watching an apprentice learn from the bottom-up ensures they learn the heart of the business, and we’re always keen to encourage their development once they’ve found their confidence. Confidence breeds confidence and Heather is definitely someone who has really flourished since starting here.

“I give her more and more tasks because I know she’s capable and confident. Here at Dale, we can spot that confidence in apprentices and we reward that by offering progression. We pride ourselves on producing home-grown talent.”

Heather, from Pleasley, has found that she enjoys working with figures and will be attending the college once a week to study accounting.

She said: “I’ve really enjoyed doing the apprenticeship. I’ve learnt so much directly from the business as well as through the assignments. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I’m now advising my friends to consider an apprenticeship.

“Now I know my strengths lie in accounting, I’m looking forward to studying the AAT qualification and bringing fresh skills to Dale.”

Tim is very much an advocate in introducing fresh skills to the company and knows that apprenticeships have brought the business up-to-date.

He said: “Since introducing apprentices to the workforce, we’ve gradually reduced that average age on the shop-floor and it’s good to see that we’re helping individuals progress within the business when some of our staff retire.

“I regularly speak at business breakfast meetings and I’m always vocal about the importance of apprenticeships in helping the business to flourish and to grow confidence and skills in an individual. It really is the way forward.”

To find out more about the benefits of taking on an apprentice, call us on 0800 121 8317